EIS does not meet Secretary’s Requirements
The Secretary’s Requirements for the EIS (SEARS) state that:
‘3. The Proponent must assess whether the land is likely to be contaminated and identify if remediation of the land is required, having regard to the ecological and human health risks posed by the contamination in the context of past, existing and likely (or potential) future land uses. Where assessment and/or remediation is required, the Proponent must document how the assessment and/or remediation would be undertaken in accordance with current guidelines.Table 16-23.’
The EIS does identify a number of significant contamination risks. A review of Chapter 16 and technical reports shows that there are many medium and high risks to human health and the environment that flow from this proposal. Other than bland statements about future plans, there are no detailed statements about how these will be handled. For this reason the EIS does not meet the SEARS requirements.
The SEARS further state:
‘7. The Proponent must assess the impact of any disturbance of contaminated groundwater and the tunnels should be carefully designed so as to not exacerbate mobilisation of contaminated groundwater and/or prevent contaminated groundwater flow.’
There is no evidence that the tunnels have been carefully designed to avoid groundwater contamination. For instance, SMC staff have openly stated at public EIS sessions that no detailed engineering design work has occurred on the Rozelle interchange of any kind. There is only a design concept without any detailed design. In these circumstances, it is not possible for NSW Planning to assess whether a more detailed future design would exacerbate mobilisation of contaminated groundwater and/or prevent contaminated ground water flow. To approve a proposal with identified risks that has so little project detail or mitigation information jeopardises the health of Sydney residents and add to ecological risks, particularly in Rozelle Bay.
Rozelle and Annandale Risks
The proposed Rozelle civil and tunnel site (C5) at Rozelle and the Crescent Site at Annandale both have severe contamination issues which are rated as High Risk.
Soils at the proposed Rozelle civil and tunnel site have been found to include lead, arsenic, cadmium and zinc exceeding the criteria for open space and commercial/industrial. It is acknowledged in the technical report to the EIS that such contamination could impact on the community. This could occur during the removal of vegetation, ballast stockpile and excavated soil. It could also occur as a result of dewatering and potential contamination of groundwater.
There is also a risk from overland flow and storm water runoff, that could affect the water quality of Easton Park drain, Whites Creek and Rozelle Bay. This endangers the ecological health of the area through potential contamination via overland flow and stormwater runoff which would affect the water quality of the Easton Park drain, Whites Creek and ultimately Rozelle Bay. Acid sulphate soils have been identified which could impact on local soil and water quality. Contamination of groundwater is known to be present, widespread and likely to be exposed. ( See Table 16-6) The risk is assessed as ‘High’.
To approve such a plan on the basis of a vague and uncertain concept plan and to leave the supply of detailed information to a post -approval stage would be highly irresponsible and cause huge anxiety and alarm in the community.
High risks for St Peters
‘High’ risks of further contamination and landfill gas and leachate has also been identified in proposed Stage 3 works at Campbell Road civil and tunnel site (C10) at St Peters
The EIS notes that the “remediation and management of the site is being undertaken as part of the construction of the St Peters interchange for the New M5 project.” The EIS fails to note the enormous difficulty that NSW Environment Protection Authority has had in trying to ensure that SMC’s contractors comply with the EPA license granted as part of the Stage 2 approval process or the fact that SMC have already been fined for breaches. The CEO of the EPA, Mr Buffier wrote to the WestConnex Action Group stating that due to the Planning Act Critical infrastructure Provisions, the EPA cannot prohibit work on the site. This is a huge issue for the community and cannot be ignored in the course of the consideration of this EIS. It is intolerable that the NSW government should identify high risk to community health from some unknown future contractors without knowing that it could prevent damage resulting from those risks.
As has been shown during Stage 2 works in St Peters, the EPA simply does not have the staff or resources to monitor whether contamination occurs. During 2017, St Peters residents experienced and documented ongoing uncontrolled sickening odours that seriously impacted on the quality of life of thousands of residents and in the case of some individuals, affected their physical health as well. When severe problems with odours occurred, SMC initially batted them away – only after a large number of complaints, did the EPA take action to strengthen licence requirements. Even then odours from landfill continued for several months. Residents have been told that the odours may reoccur over the next few months.
This EIS states that there is a high risk that further excavation activities at St Peters could cause dust and odour risks to WestConnex workers as well as ‘surrounding land users’ which includes residents, other workers and users of Sydney Park. Risks to local soil and water quality are also identified. To expose a residential community that will have already suffered severe impacts from construction for three years to further high risks of continuing impacts for an additional three years is simply unacceptable.
The notion that this open ended and uncertain proposal could be approved without the EPA being able to stop work, is alarming and distressing to residents across the project. No further licences should be granted for this or any other project in circumstances in which the EPA cannot prohibit work.
Note: For more on the St Peters situation and extracts from the letter from EPA CEO Mr Buffier go to: http://www.westconnexactiongroup.org.au/official-westconnex-allowed-to-override-environmental_laws ( Accessed October 2017).